Discovery May Hold Clues to Treatments That Slow Aging and Prevent Age-Related Chronic Disease
Boston, MA – In a study published yesterday by Nature, researchers at Joslin Diabetes Center used a microscopic worm (C. elegans) to identify a new path that could lead to drugs to slow aging and the chronic diseases that often accompany it—and might even lead to better cosmetics.
The Joslin team looked at how treatments known to boost longevity in the one-millimeter long C. elegans (including calorie restriction and treatment with the drug rapamycin) affected the expression of genes that produce collagen and other proteins that make up the extra-cellular matrix (ECM), the framework of scaffolding that supports tissues, organs and bones.
“Any longevity intervention that we looked at, whether genetic or nutritional or drugs, increased expression of collagen and other ECM genes, and enhanced ECM remodeling,” says T. Keith Blackwell, M.D., Ph.D., senior and co-corresponding author on the paper. “If you interfere with this expression, you interfere with the lifespan extension. And if you over-express some of these genes, the worm actually lives a little bit longer.”
These findings indicate that production of collagen and other ECM components plays a key role in longevity for the worm. They also suggest that agents promoting this tissue remodeling might slow aging in humans, says Dr. Blackwell.
C. elegans is an excellent model for studying aging because of its short life and easily manipulated genetics. “Essentially every other mechanism that people find in this tiny worm ends up applicable, in the most fundamental sense, to higher organisms,” he points out. “That’s a strong predictor that this mechanism is relevant to people as well.” Continue>
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